Radar pioneer dies at 91

A SUFFOLK man who played a key role in two hush-hush projects to protect England from its enemies has died at the age of 91.Keith Wood, who lived in Felixstowe, worked at both Bawdsey Manor where radar was invented and at the secret Orfordness station where detonators for nuclear bombs were tested.

A SUFFOLK man who played a key role in two hush-hush projects to protect England from its enemies has died at the age of 91.

Keith Wood, who lived in Felixstowe, worked at both Bawdsey Manor where radar was invented and at the secret Orfordness station where detonators for nuclear bombs were tested.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Wood, who published his memories of those intriguing times in a book called Echoes and Reflections and was awarded the OBE for his work in the civil service, and for the engineering and avionics industry.

Friend George Buckland, who works with the museum at Bawdsey, said: “Keith was a well-known figure in Felixstowe and very respected for the work he was involved in at Bawdsey and Orfordness.

“They were exciting times in which to have worked on radar and other experimental activities and the teams involved played a key role in the outcome of the Battle of Britain and second world war.”

A spokesman for the Royal Institute of Navigation said: “Keith had a long and illustrious career, which included stints at Bawdsey Research Station developing early airborne radar technology, and as head of the guidance team at the Blind Landing Experimental Units immediately after the war.

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“The thoughts and prayers of the institute are with his family.”

Born in Birmingham in 1915, Mr Wood came to Suffolk as a little boy, after his father died in the 1918 flu epidemic. Home became the Station Hotel at Halesworth, owned by his grandfather.

He, his mother and sister later moved to Stowmarket, where he started building radios and soon after his 15th birthday went to wireless college at Colwyn Bay.

In 1935 he saw a “very mysterious and intriguing” job advertised involving radio direction-finding at Bawdsey Manor. The interview panel included the father of radar Robert Watson-Watt.

While Bawdsey's main priority was to press on with the ground-to-air detection programme, he was part of the airborne section to find ways of installing equipment in a plane that could be used to register other aircraft and ships.

Detecting Trimley water tower, four miles away, became a standard test before the team would go to Martlesham airfield to fly new equipment.

Mr Wood's work led to transmitting equipment being installed in aircraft within two years - a world first. Later tests produced the first air-to-air pulse radar contact, another world first.

After the war, he worked as head of the guidance team on a project called the Blind Landing Experimental Unit (BLEU), developing a system to enable aircraft to land automatically, before becoming superintendent in charge of the atomic weapons research establishment at Orfordness, working with a laboratory team and explosives experts in the three pagodas testing thermonuclear weapons and intermediate-range ballistic weapons.

A funeral service for Mr Wood, who leaves a wife Dorothy (Dorrie) and daughter Judith, was held at Ipswich Crematorium.

Pay your tribute to Keith Wood - write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Keith Wood's career

After serving his apprenticeship, he worked for EMI in London, earning £5 a week.

In November 1935, he took a pay cut of nearly half to return to Suffolk to join the radar development team at Bawdsey.

After the war, he worked for ten years with a special unit at Woodbridge called the Blind Landing Experimental Unit (BLEU) and was head of the guidance team developing a system to enable aircraft to land automatically.

From 1957, he became the superintendent in charge of the atomic weapons research establishment at Orfordness.

In the early 1960s, after a year back at BLEU, he joined the team at the Directorate of Electronics and Research planning the electronic navigation, radar and automatic landing requirements of Concorde.

In 1972 he joined Decca Navigator Company, and in 1982 the Electronic Engineering Association trade body, working until he was 87.

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